Does Linen Shrink When You Wash It? (Easy Tips To Fix It)

Linen is one of the most common and preferred fabrics of clothing around the world. The fabric is soft, breathable, and dries quicker than cotton. It is also ideal for summers and comfortable to wear in regions that enjoy a hot tropical climate.

Linen is made from a strong fiber that comes from a plant called flax. But despite being a strong and absorbent cloth, linen invites some concern when it comes to maintenance as the fabric tends to shrink when washed. Here are some of the most asked questions on linen and how you can avoid shrinking when you wash it.

Does linen shrink when washed? Yes, any piece of linen clothing is likely to shrink when washed. The fabric has a natural tendency to shrink when it comes in contact with water. The shrinkage can be even more apparent if you choose to wash it in hot water, which is why using lukewarm water is generally a preferred way to care for your linen.

What is Linen?


Linen is a completely natural fabric that was originally used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia. It is known for its durability and strength and is heavier than most types of cotton fabrics. It is often used to make bedding, shirts, pants, and other items of summer clothing.

In ancient times, linen was usually used by kings and other members of the royal families but the material is quite commonly available in the present day and age. Unfortunately, along with being absorbent and having a stronger fiber structure, the material’s plant fiber tends to lose the elasticity that can make it tough to keep the fabric looking young and new over some time.

Why Does Linen Shrink?

The answer to the question of why linen shrinks can be linked to the fact that linen is not made up of animal fibers. The fabric is made from fibers that come from the flax plant. Although highly durable and strong, plant fiber can shrink when washed in water. This happens because plant fibers are more susceptible to lose their elasticity under extreme temperatures of water.

How Bad Does Linen Shrink?


How good or bad the shrinkage is can be determined depending on the kind of linen you purchase. Some companies shrink the linen before making clothes from the material. This significantly reduced the material’s ability to shrink again.

However, many companies do not shrink the fabric before stitching, which can later result in shrinkage once washed. The water temperature and the method of washing can also determine the material’s shrinkage.

Is There a Percentage for Linen Shrinkage?

The percentage for linen shrinkage can depend on many factors like how the fabric was made, where the plant was grown or procured, and how good or bad is the quality of the final material. Ideally, an average linen piece of clothing can shrink by 4% when washed. This can differ in the temperature of water used to wash the fabric.

Does Linen Shrink When Washed in Cold Water?


Yes, linen can shrink when washed in cold water, the same as it would when washed in hot water. The key to maintaining your linens is to wash them in lukewarm water. Choosing extreme temperatures forms either side of the scale can damage and shrink the fabric and also cause it to lose its original color.

Does Linen Shrink When Dry Cleaned?

Dry cleaning can be the best way to maintain your linen clothing. Dry cleaning your linen keeps the fabric’s crispness intact and does not cause its natural fibers to disintegrate. This happens because the material’s natural flax fibers do not break when dry cleaned, as opposed to when they are exposed to hot and cold temperatures of water.

Does Linen Shrink In The Dryer?


Linen can shrink in the dryer if you choose the wrong kind of dryer. Tumble dry, in particular, can be catastrophic for linen and cause the fabric to shrink by a staggering 10% to 15%. In contrast to this, naturally air drying the material usually causes the fabric to shrink to by only 4%.

The chances of shrinkage considerably increase in a tumble dry. Tumble dry also causes permanent creases in the fabric and reduces the garment’s overall life. If you must tumble dry your linens, you should make sure to set the temperature lower than 85F (30 degrees Celsius). Anything higher than this will cause the fabric to shrink and deteriorate over time.

Can Linen Shrink More Than Once With Every Wash?

Linen can shrink more than once, but many factors can affect this. Usually, pre-washed linen fabrics tend to shrink less with subsequent washes. But if the fabric is repeatedly washed in hot or cold temperatures, the material is likely to break and shrink with every wash. It is advisable to buy linen that has already been pre-washed and then follow it up a lukewarm wash after each use.

Does Linen Shrink in Length or Width?


Linen can shrink in both length and width. When you wash your linens in hot or cold water or even if you tumble dry it, all the plant fibers of the fabrics are likely to wear off in equal measure. The piece of clothing is expected to shrink in its entirety as opposed to a single aspect of the clothing being affected in a certain measure. The length or width shrinkage can also be determined based on how you air dry or hang the fabric after washing it.

Does Linen Shrink More Than Cotton?

The answer to whether linen shrinks more than cotton will depend on the type of cotton. Cotton fabrics are usually mixed with other materials like polyester, hosiery, rayon, etc., that cause them to shrink differently.

A piece of cotton clothing that is a hundred percent cotton is likely to shrink in the same manner as linen, if washed at an extremely high or low temperature or if tumble dried at a temperature more than 85F.

How to Shrink Linen Clothes


Shrinking linen clothes is easy. Most linen fabrics shrink on the first wash. This is also why many linen retailers wash the material before stitching or making clothes out of them. If you want to shrink your linen, you can either wash it with extremely hot water or cold water. Tumble drying linen fabrics at a high temperature can also cause the material to shrink.

How to Shrink a Pair of Linen Pants

Shrinking a pair of linen pants before wearing them can help you determine the right size for you. Putting your linen pants in a tumble dryer or washing them in high temperatures can cause the fabric to lose elasticity and ultimately shrink. Ideally, a temperature higher than 100F to 140F can shrink linen pants. If you do not have access to hot water, you can also choose extremely cold water to shrink them.

How to Shrink a Linen Shirt


Just like a pair of linen pants, you can also shrink a linen shirt. You can either wash it at an extremely low temperature or choose a temperature of over 140F. The fabric’s natural plant fiber is likely to lose elasticity in either way. You can also opt for a tumble dry at a temperature higher than 85F to shrink your linen shirt.

How to Shrink a Linen Dress

Similar to any other piece of clothing, you can shrink a linen dress by washing it in hot water at a temperature higher than 140F or in extremely cold water. Either way work just as well. You can also tumble dry it at a temperature higher than 85F. Shrinking a linen dress can take less an hour after a wash.

What to do if Linen Shrinks?

All linen fabrics are likely to shrink and the only way to avoid that is by using lukewarm water to wash your linen clothes. Avoiding tumble dry and letting your linen clothes air dry can be an effective way to reduce any possibility of shrinkage. You can also make sure to keep your linen fabrics away from extremely hot or cold water as that can cause the material to break down and shrink.

How to Fix an After Wash Linen Shrink

You can get at least a half inch of cloth dimensions back to their original length after a shrinkage caused by a wash. If you happen to shrink your linen after a wash, here’s what to do:

  • Take some lukewarm water in a tub or bucket. Make sure the water is only slightly warm and not piping hot, as that can lead to further damage.
  • Dip the piece of linen clothing in this water for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse the piece of clothing and take it out. Do not over dip the fabric in water.
  • ​Gently squeeze the water out from the fabric. Again, make sure to be gentle and not overdo the squeeze as that can further cause the material to lose its elasticity.
  • ​Hang the piece of clothing to air dry outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. Let it dry for a while. As a general rule of thumb, you can let it air dry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. But you can take a call based on the climate and weather in your region.
  • ​While the fabric is still wet, take it out of the hanger and spread it evenly on an ironing board.
  • Place the iron on the center and move it across the length and breadth of the fabric in outward strokes. Start ironing from the center and cover the entire piece of clothing slowly. The outward ironing will stretch the fabric back to its original size and dimensions.

This method is quite effective and used by many people around the globe to undo the effects of shrinkage in linen clothing. But you must know that ironing wet clothes can cause them to fade. So if your linens are of a darker shade you may have to place a handkerchief on top of the linen fabric and then iron the material.

Another way to reverse the effects of shrinking on your linen clothes can be by using a spray bottle. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take a spray bottle and fill it up with lukewarm water.
  • Spread out the linen clothing on a flat surface.
  • Occasionally spray some water onto the linen clothing and then iron it in outward strokes.
  • Make sure to only dampen the fabric slightly and not make it entirely wet, as that may cause the material to fade on ironing.

To Sum it Up

Linen is a 100% natural and vegan fabric. The material is made from plant fiber and is hypoallergenic. It can also absorb a good amount of moisture that makes it an ideal fabric for day to day use products. Linen clothes are some of the best options that you have when it comes to summer clothing.

Linen bedding is also a preferred choice for many people. Linen is soft, comfortable, and breathable and can be worn by people of all ages. But the material also demands some maintenance.

Making sure to control the temperature on the machine will guarantee that your fabric does not shrink or lose its color and elasticity with multiple washes. Air drying, as opposed to tumbling drying, also increases the longevity of the material. Linen is a great material and with simple tips and tricks, maintaining it can be an easy affair.

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